Idol Worship

2 Aug

Every year I pray to a Christmas tree.

My family encircles around a plastic tree heavily decorated in gaudy strings and multicolored lights.  I’ve seen Christmas trees elegantly decorated in the living rooms of professional life partners with a keen eye for subtly, but my families trees are always decorated as a clownish mockery of Americana– decorated with the blasphemous eyes of an immigrant who misappropriates.

Under the plastic tree lay porcelain figures representing the birth of Jesus, on especially holy Christmases we’ll have two representations, one from figurines belonging to my aunt and another belonging to me.

“I don’t think I believe in God,” I said to my mother.  I was 16 years old when she asked me and I responded honestly.  Her response was neither excessive disappointment or bemusement, it was something like…disappointing bemusement.

“Oh you feel that way?” I think is how she answered in Spanish.

I didn’t think I believed in God when I was 16 but I became an atheist shortly thereafter due to reading Douglas Adams, who then wrote about his friend Richard Dawkins, then reading Richard Dawkins who so thoroughly denounced the great wizards in the sky that I was left with no choice but to shed the rotting skin of my Catholicism.  My mom asked me to pray for my grandmother as she died (parts 123 and 4) and I said I would.  When she asked me again a year later whether I believed in prayer  I told her no.

“I don’t believe in prayer.” I then wondered why she asked me, had she forgotten my confession when I was 16? Had she chosen to forget? Believed I was going through an atheist phase?

Atheism itself isn’t a belief, atheism is a rejecting of a delusion. But to say I have no faith isn’t accurate.  The belief portion of atheism springs from the suspicion that nothing happens when you die, which means this life here and now is Heaven and Hell, and everything you do now is the only thing that counts especially where no reward or punishment await in your afterlife.  When my mother asked me to pray years past I would have a conversation, and the conversation cheapened as I got older, and it stopped when I figured out that I’d only been talking to myself, and that’s when I stopped praying on special occasions and started engaging in thoughtful conversations with myself (and not only in front of a tree on Christmas).

This year I’ll pretend to pray in front of a plastic Christmas tree because my Mother will ask me to do so.  I’m a good atheist soldier in the battle of waged by fundamentalist believers, but my family isn’t the battlefield.  I will answer their questions if asked directly, but I will also kneel in front of that dumb tree because it makes my mom feel good.

I don’t think that’s mean is it?


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